CHAPMANVILLE — Going into the 2015 high school football season just about everyone knew the Chapmanville Regional Tigers would have a potent offensive attack.
With three-year starter and senior Alex Berry back at quarterback and with senior wide receiver Jacob Dingess returning, Chapmanville had the Cardinal Conference’s best offensive combo.
Tanner Dillon was back as the Tigers’ feature tailback.
Other offensive weapons such as hybrid wide receiver/running back Dylan Smith, wideouts Billy Sheppard and Noah Dingess and newcomer Ethan Thompson made CRHS look even more imposing.
But back in August, Chapmanville coach George Barker said one of his team biggest strengths could be his special teams.
When it comes to special teams, Barker was talking about Dillon, who was to handle all of the Tigers’ placekicking, punting and kickoff duties.
“We’re going to kick the ball and we wont hesitate to go for a short field goal if we need to,” Barker said back in August.
Barker’s assessment back then was very true as Dillon has quietly had a fantastic season as Chapmanville’s kicker.
The Tigers hope to use it to their advantage as No. 8 seed Chapmanville (7-3) is scheduled to host No. 9 Robert C. Byrd (7-3) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in the first round of the Class AA playoffs at Chapmanville’s Tiger Stadium.
All you have to do is look at Dillon’s stats.
They jump right out at you.
For the season, Dillon has made 91.7 percent of his extra point kicks as he has successfully booted 44-of-48 of his PATs.
Dillon is also 3-for-4 in field goal attempts for 75 percent, including the game-winning 35-yard field goal in Chapmanville’s 38-35 Week 2 win at Herbert Hoover. Dillon also made a 30-yard field goal in the season-opening win over Sissonville and later kicked a 28-yarder in the 76-45 loss at Tolsia late in the season.
As a punter, Dillon is averaging 34.4 yards per kick.
What Dillon has done this season is still very rare in high school football.
Even these days.
Many teams don’t really have a credible kicker and go for the two-point conversion after just about every touchdown scored.
Having Dillon’s kicking ability has been a luxury for the Tigers this season.
The game at Hoover proved that point.
Had it not been for Dillon that game most certainly would have went to overtime.
Then who knows?
Had Chapmanville lost that game that night to the Huskies, the Tigers would have finished the season 6-4 and would be playing on the road this weekend instead of being at home.
It turned out to be a very pivotable game for the Tigers this season.
By contrast, Herbert Hoover (7-3) dropped to the No. 11 seed and have to travel to play at No. 6 James Monroe (8-2) for a first-round playoff game. Had it been reversed in the Chapmanville game, the Huskies might be playing at Falling Rock on Friday night.
“This doesn’t happen very often in high school football,” Barker said of having a good kicker. “He’s worked really hard at it and has done a great job for us. With his ability to kick I would put his percentage up there with just about anybody.”
Having the strong-legged Dillon has changed Chapmanville’s offensive strategy this season.
Facing a fourth-and-long inside the 25, Barker said he hasn’t hesitated at all to bring in Dillon. Coming away with three points as opposed to possibily zero if the fourth down play is not successful could be a game-changer.
“It does make a difference. Any time we feel like we can get the ball inside the 25-yard line we’re capable of scoring,” Barker said. “That helps out a whole lot. When you call for a field goal team or the extra point team it’s a good feeling knowing that there’s a real good chance that he’s going to make it.”
Barker said he doesn’t remember Chapmanville ever having a placekicker like Dillon, even going back decades ago.
“Not at all,” Barker said. “He’s the most consistent kicker that I’ve ever had since I’ve been around.”
Knowing that when the Tigers are able to score seven everytime they score a touchdown instead of possibily settling for six has been a big boost to the CRHS football team, Barker said.
“In the Wayne game they scored first and went for two and made it 8-0. We scored and we went for one thinking that it was too early to try to chase them. We were looking for points,” Barker said. “We are very confident with Tanner’s ability.”
The winner of the Chapmanville-RCB game will likely have a second-round contest at No. 1-ranked Bridgeport (9-0-1) on Nov. 20 or 21.
Bridgeport, the defending state champions in Class AA, open the playoffs on Friday night at home against No. 16 Independence (7-3).
The Indians’ only blemish this season was a Week 2 tie game against Wheeling Park.
The game was halted in the first quarter with the game tied 0-0 due to severe thunderstorms and dangerous lightning. The game was never made up and ruled a tie by the WVSSAC.
Class AA playoff pairings
Friday, November 13 games
No. 16 Independence (7-3) at No. 1 Bridgeport (9-0-1), 7:30 p.m.
No. 14 Liberty (Raleigh) (7-3) at No. 3 Tolsia (9-1), 7:30 p.m.
No. 13 Lincoln (7-3) at No. 4 Fairmont Senior (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
No. 11 Herbert Hoover (7-3) at No. 6 James Monroe (8-2), 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 14 games
No. 15 Weir (7-3) at No. 2 Bluefield (8-1), 1:30 p.m.
No. 12 Westside (7-3) at No. 5 Keyser (8-2), 1:30 p.m.
No. 10 Summers County (8-2) at No. 7 Mingo Central (8-2), 1:30 p.m.
No. 9 Robert C. Byrd (7-3) at No. 8 Chapmanville (7-3), 1:30 p.m.
(Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1730, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @PAdkinsBanner).